“When a society demands change there is no need attempting to change it on old principles”-Foday Sankoh.
Only yesterday, the winner of the recently conducted election in the State of Osun was announced by the returning officer, the Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Professor Bamitale Omole. There has been a torrent of applause given that nobody was killed nor maimed neither was a single ballot box snatched in the process. Given this scenario, the process can be said to be flawless and INEC ought to be commended.
Clearly, Nigerians will continue to salute any process devoid of bloodletting, snatching of ballot and other hitherto well practiced electoral malfeasance associated with electoral contest in this part of the world. Because of this, there is a growing danger that an insidious act such as unconstitutional militarization of the process is now an acceptable price Nigerians are willing to pay to sustain its hard earned democracy. On the surface of it, it may appear good but in the final analysis, it is fraught with danger which if care is not taken could implode the process itself with attendant consequences.
To begin with, it is a necessity to raise some germane questions as such will further help strengthen our nascent democracy. I was particularly saddened when I heard that some students, members of the All Peoples Congress, APC leaders and some supporters were randomly arrested before the election. Initially, the impression was that they had committed an offence but that was not to be. They were randomly arrested to whittle down their influence and plunge their party into a state of confusion. It occurred in Ekiti and again in Osun and will continue if such violations are not challenged.
On the other hand, members of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), and several of their chieftains were seen roaming about unmolested and in some instances, they enjoyed a measure of security cover. I am tempted to ask why the double standards?
If a serving minister of either the Police Affairs or that of Defence or member BOT and some other characters such as the “famous” Chris Uba of the ruling party have “powers” to move around with their security details, dishing out orders to security agents on who to arrest than it is only a matter for people to realize the danger inherent in such a lop-sided arrangement. Such violations portray it a crime to belong to an opposition party and it smacks of desperation of the highest order.
Election process does not start and end when election results are announced. What about the process leading to the emergence of a winner and a loser? People are tempted to feel all is well that ends well. The end cannot justify the ends in this instance. It would be recalled that scores of APC members were arrested in the build up of the June 21, 2014 election in Ekiti and not one was charged to court nor was said to have violated any known law except for belonging to the opposition. Again, it has happen in the State of Osun and yet nothing will happen. When is it a crime for the opposition to exist in a supposed democracy? It not a known fact, that a single party state cannot long endure in a pluralistic state such as ours and continued attempts by the ruling party, the PDP to use security agencies to intimidate the opposition will serve any good purpose. It is a safe assumption that if such trend thrives unchecked then it will poison the water of our hard earned democracy.
In the build up and during the elections proper, elements such as Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was quoted by a section of the media as defending the indefensible. He made allusion to the fact that only people with criminal intentions were picked up by the security agencies. Such assertion falls flat in the fact of reality. Can it be said, that only members of the opposition have the tendencies for criminal tendencies. Sure, that does not add up and it has to be called by its rightful name even if a thousand “fallen angels” call it by another name.
In effect, the corrosive tendencies of having a massive security network cannot be overlooked. The conduct of some of the security forces is better imagined than experienced. What dangerous tendencies are we overlooking here? It will be recalled that upon arrival in the State several rounds of ammunitions were fired in a brazen show of force. The APC must respond now and in earnest commence a civic orientation of its members and Nigerians generally before the next round of election, it is a duty it owes itself and the nation. Should the party forget or allow sleeping dogs lie because of its recent victory is most unacceptable. They must take responsibility and mobilize Nigerians in the face of this brazen injustice.
During the campaigns, the Vice-President in fashionable PDP way had promised that the election was a war that must be prosecuted. Such assertion by “garrison commander” is unbecoming of men of such high office. True, to the Vice-President promise, soldiers wearing hoods were seen on duty for the election. Imagine a situation where some criminals parading themselves as soldiers fully hooded cause mayhem. How do you trace a hooded fellow?
Even if there is need to give the Army the benefit of the doubt mounting and credible complains against conduct of some of its personal reveal that they cannot be trusted to tower above partisanship and pettiness. For sure, democracy has suffered series of abuses in the past but to steadily compromise the Army in the conduct of election, is to accelerate the journey into the abyss. It is not unexpected for denials to follow. Given that only recently even under the full glare of cameras, the Army continues to deny any involvement of its personals in the burning of some BRT buses in Lagos, leaves much to be desired.
The trajectory is familiar. As it was in the past, the coast is now clear and the end game is predictable. Memory failure cannot excuse the repercussion for multiple violations of democratic ethos. Let it be noted, that scant regard for a process that requires strict adherence to procedures cannot long endure simply because, thankfully ballot snatching, hooliganism, maiming and killings are fast becoming a fading pastime does not excuse the introduction of another measure which is capable of subverting the process in the long run.
More confounding, is that sooner that the APC was declared winner its cacophony of cries of molestation dissolves into the thin air. Why allow such infractions go unchallenged in a court of law? Must we wait until another electoral heist is well scripted and executed before they resort to the legal process?
The conduct of elections in Nigeria must be free and fair. In the State of Osun, even with APC’s triumph it is safe to assert that the continued militarization of the electoral process will sooner than later boomerang.
Legislative Aide to Senator Bababfemi Ojudu